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Trump’s road to the White House: more domestic violence, more cop deaths

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Trump is clearly pandering to a law-and-order crowd, overwhelmingly white, that is fed up with attacks—verbal and physical—against cops. Hillary is just the opposite: calling for more sensitivity on the part of cops, and in general siding with BLM. But there are risks for both.

Trump’s risk is obvious: he’s already pegged as a racist (and xenophobe) by a majority of the American people, so every time he suggests Black guys deserve to get shot if they resist arrest, he just feeds into that narrative. Hillary’s risk is also obvious: there is a great desire for law and order in America. People don’t like seeing unruly crowds of (mainly young) people trashing their cities. And people have a liking and respect for cops, so Hillary can’t be seen as anti-cop, which is the same thing as being seen as pro-violence.

Just as the risks are obvious for both, so are the potential rewards. Trump will probably win a majority of the white vote. The more he can appeal to frightened wobblers, the more chance he has of winning this election. Every time there’s a police-on-black shooting, the wobblers are confronted with a choice: listen to their better angels, or their demonic ones. This is a true moral and ethical conundrum for a lot of them, and I don’t mean to condescend or minimize it. They may not particularly like Trump, they may see him as the con artist he is, but if they think he’ll crack down on the rioters (and terrorists) and Democrats will coddle them, they’ll hold their noses and vote Republican.

Hillary has a chance at the wobblers, too. She’s got to convince them of something that’s very difficult to explain: no matter how angry and frustrated they are with violence, whether perpetrated by American rioters or by terrorists, they have to maintain their equilibrium. They should not and must not vote with their emotions, but rather think things through and be smart about it. The smart choice, clearly, is Hillary Clinton, but the emotionally satisfying choice is Trump.

Trump has the advantage here. He’s not asking for people to think. Rational analysis is not part of his message, his technique or his appeal, just as it never is for demagogues. Trump’s advantage is that the negativity is already there, in millions of white voters who don’t want BLM to put a target on the backs of cops. All Trump has to do is remind these voters that he’s on their side—on the cops’ side—on the side of law and order. Hillary’s task is so much harder. She has to get these same people to put on their thinking caps and not be stupid. That’s what she meant by the “basket of deplorables.” She meant that their inability, or refusal, to turn off their rage and actually think things through is what’s deplorable about them. In truth, there’s nothing especially new about this phenomenon in American electoral politics. It shows up, in one form or another, in most elections. When Richard Nixon ran for President for the first time, in 1960, he realized, at some point during the campaign, that he didn’t stand a chance wooing the African-American vote in the big northeast and Midwest cities, a vote that might have swung that historically close election to him. Instead, he—or his advisors—sensed the growing frustration among southern white voters who felt that “the gummint” was coddling Blacks (even though, mind you, the sitting President, Eisenhower, was a Republican). Nixon ran an early version of his “Southern strategy.” It didn’t work in 1960, but it did in 1968 and in 1972.

It’s always a challenge for politicians to try and educate voters instead of just playing to their feelings. Adlai Stevenson tried it twice (1952, 1956) and was roundly defeated both times. He was—to put it bluntly—too intelligent for the voters. Had Stevenson been more human on the stump, had a better smile, been warmer and fuzzier, he could have overcome the disadvantage of being smart. Alas, those qualities were not in his makeup (as they really aren’t in Hillary’s). They were in Obama’s makeup, in addition to the intelligence, but Obama is one in a million. With this Trump-Hillary battle, we’re actually back to a more normal election: Dewey-Truman, Kennedy-Nixon, Ford-Carter, Clinton-Bush 41, Gore-Bush 43 and Kerry-Bush 43. These were nail biters because neither candidate had the clear advantage. Each was flawed and gifted. In general, though, it can be said that Republicans historically play to peoples’ emotions, while Democrats appeal to their intellects.

I still think this election is Hillary’s to lose, but the more Charlottes and terrorism that happen between now and Election Day, the more the odds favor Trump. You might even say that this man, who has never been at all religious despite his pandering to evangelicals, gets down on his knees every night and prays for God to make some unhinged Muslim kill as many Westerners as possible, preferably right here in the U.S.A., and preferably cops. It’s his road to the White House.

  1. “In general, though, it can be said that Republicans historically play to peoples’ emotions, while Democrats appeal to their intellects.”

    Quoting The Wall Street Journal’s interview with Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert newspaper cartoon strip . . .

    . . . on Hillary Clinton’s persuasion skills.


    Mrs. Clinton is campaigning much more effectively than before. “Clinton had terrible persuasion game until somewhere around late spring, when it was clear that Bernie Sanders wasn’t going to go all the way,” he [Adams] says. “I am speculating that somebody was on the Sanders team who may have jumped ship to Clinton’s team, because her persuasion game went from terrible to world-class almost instantly. And the best example of that is the word ‘dark.’

    “You saw right after Trump did his convention speech that all of the [Clinton] surrogates used the same word almost instantly. You know, ‘dark’? So somebody with skill had obviously gotten word out to use that word. And if you look at it, it’s the same engineering as Trump’s. It’s a higher level than what you normally see. ‘Dark’ is a Rorschach test. . . . Anything you see Trump do — from getting mad at a baby, to saying something about the Second Amendment and Hillary Clinton, to his immigration plans — they all seem like they could fit into this ‘dark’ label, once you’ve heard it. It was a fresh word you don’t hear in politics . . . and it fits all future confirmation bias. So anything he does in the future, you’re going to say, ‘Yeah, that was a little dark.’ ”

    He thinks “dark” was “probably the work of a trained cognitive psychologist, behavioral psychologist — someone who has deep skills. I’ve referred to who I think it is as Godzilla. And I think Godzilla entered the race sometime around June.” I ask for Godzilla’s real name, and Mr. Adams answers: Robert Cialdini [*], a social psychologist at Arizona State University. Mr. Adams describes Mr. Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” first published in 1984, as “the flagship book” on the subject.

    Mr. Cialdini didn’t reply to my email, but he was part of a team of behavioral scientists who advised President Obama’s re-election campaign.

    “If I were to judge Obama’s persuasion game, I would say A-plus,” Mr. Adams says. “Coincidence? Almost certainly not. He had the right people consulting. Is it a coincidence that Clinton’s game went from terrible to world-class almost instantly? SHE’S LARGELY ABANDONED POLICIES AND EXPERIENCE and, you know, blah blah blah, AND NOW IT’S ‘I’M GOING TO SCARE YOU TO DEATH ABOUT TRUMP,’ . . . And he continues to fall into their confirmation-bias trap by saying things off the cuff that can be taken out of context easily and misinterpreted.”

    [Bob’s aside: Robert Cialdini has a new book out titled “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade.”]

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